Goodbye and thank you

Captains Jim and Deb Vanderheyden are moving to Fort St. John for their new Salvation Army posting.

Captains Jim and Deb Vanderheyden are moving to Fort St. John for their new posting.

This is one of those very difficult stories to write. It’s always the reporter’s intention to remain impartial, always neutral about the people and the stories we write.

But once in a while a person or a story

affects you – causing you to go beyond the boundaries.

Now that’s not to say we don’t respond to the people we interview, have feelings and reactions to their story and often find those emotions challenging our objectivity, however, I’ve had the rare privilege of becoming friends with a couple whose life and actions I truly admire and respect.

Captains Jimmy and Deb Vanderheyden are leaving for a new posting in Fort St. John

The couple came to Quesnel five years ago to help a floundering Salvation Army ministry. The congregation was reduced to just three regulars and many of the programs had almost derailed.

Fresh from the Salvation Army’s College for Officer Training in Winnipeg, Jim and Deb had prayed for a posting to Quesnel.

“It’s hard to prepare for a new posting, every situation is unique,” Jimmy said.

But the couple had an indication of the task ahead of them when their superior whispered at their graduation, “there’s work to do.”

They arrived in Quesnel and were gratified to find good support from the other local churches and their volunteers.

First on their to-do list was an assessment of the Salvation Army ministry in Quesnel.

“We felt the first job was to provide dignity for the people who frequented the programs and those seeking services and support,” Deb said.

And the ministry needed organization and better space management.

As a reporter, I felt it was my job to introduce the new captains to the community.

From the moment I met Jimmy and Deb, I knew there was a change: change for the better.

Their soft-spoken manner, friendly attitude and Jimmy’s ready laugh touched me.

However, beyond that warm introduction, I quickly learned there was true commitment to growing their ministry and a sincere love for people, no matter what their needs.

“This community welcomed us and recognized change,” Jimmy said.

As they settled into Quesnel, their congregation grew, the physical presence of

the Salvation Army changed and expanded and services reached

every corner of the community.

One of the services they are most proud of is the development of a small but vital program called Tiny Bites.

During the summer months volunteers prepare lunches, pack up the van and deliver to children, serving them from the back of the vehicle.

“Tiny Bites is ground zero: we go where the hungry children are,” Jimmy said.

Deb added Tiny Bites isn’t their biggest program but, “to us, it’s our best – it’s good for the heart.”

Both agreed they’ll be starting a similar program in their new posting.

The Vanderheydens learned how their service and commitment are part of a network and have come to rely on something much bigger than just one ministry in one community. They’ll be bringing that awareness to their new posting where they will again be looking to grow a small ministry.

The Salvation Army has just purchased a motel in Fort St. John which the Vanderheydens, with community support, will be converting to a homeless shelter and transition house.

“When you see lives changed because of the Salvation Army, the success stories fuel you,” Deb said.

As Jimmy and Deb say their goodbyes, they encourage everyone to welcome the new husband and wife team, Stefan and Laura Van Schaick, who recently graduated from the College for Officer Training and Quesnel will be their first posting.

“They also prayed to be posted to Quesnel,” Deb said.

“Stefan and Laura will bring their vision for Quesnel. They have a good foundation.

“We’ve told

them they’re coming to the best community in the country – loving and kind.

“We’re very blessed to have come to Quesnel.”

Jimmy added a first posting is everything rolled up together.

“It’s scary and exciting, it’s meeting new people and finding amazing support,” he said.

Deb asked to include one quote from scripture: Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

When friends move on, it’s difficult to envision how that empty hole will be filled  but I also look forward to interviewing the new captains and beginning a new relationship.

And good news, Stefan is also a musician.

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